Jewish Population in Judea and Samaria Increases in 2006

The Jewish population in Judea and Samaria grew by nearly 6% in 2006, four times the rate of increase a year earlier.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz , | updated: 9:59 AM

According to figures released on Tuesday by the Interior Ministry, there were 268,379 Israelis living in the 126 Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria at the end of 2006, compared with 253,748 in 2005 - a 5.8 percent increase. In 2005, there was a growth of less than 2%.

The 2006 statistics did not indicate, however, how many of the additional residents were children born in the communities and how many had moved there from other places.

The population growth in Judea and Samaria is often greater than around the country. In 2001-2003, for instance, the population in Yesha increased by 16% - a rate that was three times higher than that of the Negev and Galilee.

A small part of the latest increase may be attributed to families from Jewish communities that were uprooted from Gush Katif in the summer of 2005 moving to Judea and Samaria. However, spokespersons for the Jewish Communities Council of Judea, Samaria and Gaza note that most of the nearly 9,000 Jews pulled out of the Gaza Strip have moved into temporary or permanent homes in southern, pre-1967 Israel.

Only in December 2006, for example did Israeli officials announce that Maskiot, a tiny village and former army base in the Jordan Valley, would receive an influx of 60 families that once lived in the town of Shirat HaYam. Shirat HaYam was located on the southern beach-front of Gush Katif until it was uprooted as part of the Disengagement Plan executed by the Sharon administration.

Another factor that may play a minor role in the population increase is the immigration statistics from the English-speaking West. More than 3,000 immigrants from the United States, Canada and Britain made Aliyah in 2006 with the assistance of the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization. A total of 10,000 Jews immigrated with the organization's help in recent years. Many Western immigrants are known to have familial or religious connections to communities in Judea and Samaria.

In addition, Israel has seen a rise in immigration from France, but the impact of that community on the population of Judea and Samaria is undocumented.

As in past years, the fastest growth rate in 2006 was recorded in the hareidi-religious towns of Modi'in Illit (Kiryat Sefer) and Beitar Illit. Those two communities benefit from the high hareidi birthrate, as well as large numbers of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak residents moving to less expensive and less crowded suburban towns.

Kiryat Sefer, near the centrally located city of Modi'in, is now the largest Jewish town in Judea and Samaria, with 34,500 residents - 1,200 more than Ma'aleh Adumim, a suburb of Jerusalem.